Page last updated at 19:33 GMT, Monday, 23 June 2008 20:33 UK

Action call after fuel raid death

Rosemary Dove
Rosemary Dove died after collapsing

Farmers leaders have called for action to tackle rising fuel thefts after a woman died during a raid on her County Durham farm.

Rosemary Dove, 68, collapsed while she was phoning police after spotting a man taking red diesel at East House Farm in Bishop Middleham, near Sedgefield.

Farmers leaders said there had been a sharp increase in the theft of agricultural fuel.

Durham Police said: "We are urging members of the public to be vigilant."

Mrs Dove's son James, known as Michael, was hit by the thief's truck.

He was taken to the University Hospital of North Tees in Stockton, where his injuries are described as non-life threatening.

Northumberland farmer Richard Dodd, the North East director of the Countryside Alliance, said: "Diesel fuel has a value far more than it ever used to. It was 11p a litre three years ago - now it's 70p.

'Cut costs'

"The trend probably started up six months ago. The criminals have come out and found rich pickings in the countryside.

"These gangs realise this is a commodity and they can also sell it readily. Because the price of diesel elsewhere is so expensive they'll probably always be able to find a market with someone trying to cut costs."

East House farm
The couple had returned to their home from an agricultural show in Scotland

A Durham Police spokesman confirmed there had been an increase in fuel thefts across County Durham in recent months.

"We can confirm that the thefts of petrol and diesel have in recent months increased noticeably, but we should point out the numbers still remain low - in the dozens rather than hundreds."

NFU Mutual, the leading provider of insurance to rural enterprises, said that high fuel prices had triggered a wave of thefts.

Spokesman Tim Price said the company had seen a 20% increase in the number of insurance claims for red diesel this year.

He said: "A few years ago thieves would just fill up their own diesel tank, but now they are much more organised - stealing thousands of litres in one go."

Mrs Dove and her husband William, known as Frank, spotted the thief at about 2030 BST on Sunday after returning from an agricultural show.

Extensive damage

She ran to dial 999, while her husband and son chased the silver Mitsubishi pick-up style truck.

Michael Dove got out of his vehicle and was knocked into a ditch as the pick-up broke through a cordon.

Mrs Dove was later found collapsed and died.

The raider is described as white, aged between 20 and 30, of muscular build with short dark-brown hair. He was wearing a checked shirt.

Durham Police said crime scene investigators were carrying out a detailed search of the farm and were examining tyre marks and footprints left at the scene.

Police also said the truck would have suffered extensive front-end damage after driving through hedges and fences in the getaway.




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